I regularly have text and video chats with my 8 year old nephew.

Naturally, he doesn't know how to spell every word, so every once in a while he'll misspell something (e.g. "af" = "have" or "supries" = "surprise"), although he seems to do a good job guessing phonetically.

My question is: Is it helpful to him if I correct his spelling? Or is it demeaning in some way?

It's hard to tell as an adult because I'm conditioned to YouTube comments and such where correcting grammar and spelling is often seen as annoying and negative. On the other hand, if it helps him learn then it's a good thing.

So far I've never corrected anything.

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    No idea what tags to use; sorry. Feel free to choose some better ones!
    – Jason C
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 0:36

3 Answers 3


YouTube comments, phone auto-correct, someone looking over your shoulder ... all of these could definitely annoy someone. Think of how you would feel if someone did it to you. Don't treat this child differently because you feel they are still in a stage of "learning". Unless specifically asking about or being quizzed on the spelling of something, it's tangential to the conversation that's actually taking place. Diverting attention to correct a spelling mistake interrupts and dismisses the conversation while at the same time addressing something that the writer thinks they have already learned (and are thus no longer in a stage of learning in their mind).

Instead, I suggest that you find the next possible time that you could reasonably use the same word and do so with the correct spelling. Providing the example as a part of your regular conversation can offer a chance for them to learn without feeling pressured to learn.

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    Love this answer. If a correction is "tangential to the conversation that's actually taking place", it is dismissive of the person, no matter the age. It's kind of like saying, "It's more important to be proper than to have actual conversations as real people." (Interestingly, I will never forget as a medical student asking what the attending thought of a report he told me to write. His answer: "It's "i" before "e" except after "c"." While his intent was clearly to put me in my place, it did the opposite. I lost all respect for him. I never forgot the rule, though, to his credit...) Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 4:46
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    @anongoodnurse "It's more important to be proper than to have actual conversations as real people." I think it is. Language exists so that we have a common base to understand each other. What if everyone starts like "does not matter how I write things as long as you understand them" ? Language will slowly become a very big mess. Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 9:30
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    Language has always been a very big mess, and the idea of standardized spelling is a modern aberration which we've managed for centuries without, @Florian.
    – TRiG
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 9:43
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    wel, okhay, i gote it. :D @TRiG Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 10:05
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    @FlorianCastelain - I care more about the feelings of an 8 year old than proper spelling. Proper spelling will come eventually from teachers and others concerned with such things. Love, and appreciation for the effort of communication with me, seems the wiser choice (to me.) Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 14:45

Like Ian, I would also urge you to think of how you would feel in the kid's place. Personally, I would be really annoyed and embarrassed if it turns out someone has been letting me make mistakes without telling me! This may well be colored by my experience living in countries where I didn't speak the local language natively, but I always appreciate it when people point out mistakes. Obviously not in the middle of a heated argument, and there are nice and not so nice ways of doing it, but being corrected is how we can learn.

All this said, I suggest a simple workaround when you want to do this that could both help the kid learn and avoid making you come across as annoying. Instead of pointing out the mistake, just try to use the word yourself and spell it right:

  • Kid: Yes, it was a great supries!
  • You: I'm glad you liked it!
  • You: The next surprise will be even better!

By writing the word correctly yourself, you can show the right spelling without actually pointing out the error explicitly.

  • I've never lived in a foreign country, unless you consider the Deep South (of the US) one. (j/k) In my experience, foreigners are generally glad enough that I'm trying to communicate in their language rather than than mine. I've never been corrected unless I ask to be, although like you, I'd be glad for the correction if made kindly and at the right time. Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 14:39

I'm of the opinion that adult have a responsibility to set examples for children. I apply that responsibility to spelling corrections.

Therefore, when my children make spelling corrections in e.g. Telegram, instead of pointing out the mistake I reply to them, using the word they misspelled, but spelled correctly.

Fictional examples:

Maayan: We rod a horse today.
Dotan: I rode a horse when I was young!

Maayan: I love to eat strawberys.
Dotan : I love strawberries too!
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    Isn't this exactly what I suggest in my answer? This looks like you're just repeating what I said and not adding anything new. Am I missing something?
    – terdon
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 8:22
  • @terdon: Yes, it is! I apologize, I answered quickly and did not go over your answer. I'll leave this up long enough for you to see this message and then I'll remove my redundant answer.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 13:30
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    Heh, no worries. Been there all too often myself! I was just wondering if you were adding something which I just didn't see, something that has also happened often enough :).
    – terdon
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 13:36
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    I don't think you should remove this answer, I found it useful. It's especially useful on this site to see multiple people express similar opinions; it's even more validating than upvotes. Y'all shouldn't get so territorial about answers, lol.
    – Jason C
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 13:00
  • @JasonC: Not territorial at all! In fact, Terdon has been a huge help for me over the years over on Unix.SE. He might not recognize my name, but for me seeing his name on an answer is a stamp of quality.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 16:24

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